Mary and John Streets, June 2013

Monday, June 24, 2013

39 George Street, part 2

At the end of World War II the returning veterans were settling down, getting married, starting families and that created a housing shortage across Canada. As mentioned earlier, #39 George Street was sold by the original owner (the Snyder’s) to a partnership of Harold and Shirley Bordman, and his parents, Edward and Sylvia in 1946. The mansion was turned into 5 apartments. After a year of renovations, in 1946 Harold, Shirley, and their young daughter, Heather moved into the main floor apartment on the east side. Harold’s parents, Edward and Sylvia and their daughter, Marnie, moved in above them and the other 3 units were rented out.  

Marnie recalls growing up on George Street. She was 8 when she moved in, after living on both Herbert and John Streets. The neighbourhood was full of children. Here are some of her recollections.

Four-year-old Marnie Bordman in front of one of the houses at the foot of Herbert St (near William), recently demolished.
The community discouraged children from going house to house on Hallowe’en evening. Instead the kids from Elizabeth Ziegler, St Louis, Alexandra, and Central schools would gather at the park at William and King Streets and parade to the market (which is now the location of the Marsland Building on Erb Street). Prizes were given out for the best costume, and all the kids got donuts and hot chocolate. When Marnie was older her friends would gather in the basement of 39 George Street for a Hallowe’en party. There was a trap door that got the guests into the party room.

Hallowe’en Party in the basement of 39 George St.

Older kids would also hang out at Beese’s Dairy Bar (which is now Newtex Dry Cleaners at King and John). It had a U-shaped bar with round seats that you could spin on. Beese’s specialized in cherry cokes and vanilla milkshakes.

Marnie’s father was a bartender at the City Hotel (corner of King and Willis Way, now Investor’s Group). Wearing her Brownie uniform, Marnie would sit quietly on a stool at the bar. When it was almost closing time she would go table to table and sell her Girl Guide cookies. She won a prize for selling the most cookies.

The house next door, #43 George Street was owned by the Simpson family when Marnie was growing up. They had two daughters, Carol and Sally, as well as an attic full of old clothes from Carol’s grandmother. Marnie and Carol would play dress-up. Here they are in the garden in their finery!

Marnie Bordman and Carol Simpson
Marnie’s mother and sister-in-law opened Bordman’s Gift Shop on King Street where Whole-Lotta-Gelata is now. It was right beside a Chinese Restaurant. The gift shop was the place in town to purchase fine china and other specialty items. It closed in 1957. That same year Marnie married Bill Wharnsby and the house at #39 George Street was sold. It continues to have 5 apartments.  

As you walk around the Mary-Allen neighbourhood, take delight in discovering the stories behind some of these beautiful homes. We can be proud that we live in such a lovely area.

Newlyweds Marnie and Bill Wharnsby, in front of the sunroom of 43 George St.

Monday, June 17, 2013

39 George Street, part 1

(Posted by M. Lee on behalf of T. Siemens)

The Mary-Allen neighbourhood has several majestic houses, many of them on George Street. You can download a walking tour of the neighbourhood at http://www.wpl.ca/walkingtour

One interesting house is #39 George Street. It is a mirror image of a house at #50 Albert Street. Both houses were constructed by Charles Moogk, Waterloo’s first Civic Engineer as well as an architect and a builder. The Albert Street house was built in 1903 for Herbert Snyder of Snyder Brothers Company (furniture and upholstery) and 39 George was built for his brother, Alfred, in 1905.(Their father, Simon Snyder, lived next door at 43 George Street) Both houses are concrete wall construction, a new concept at the time. Both cost around $7000 to build. 

In 1945 Edward Bordman and his son, Harold, bought 39 George Street. Edward supplied the down payment by selling his home at 159 Herbert Street (now torn down and is part of an empty lot at Herbert and William). Harold took out the mortgage. While renovating 39 George, Harold and his wife, Shirley, lived in the Bauer Apartments at the corner of George and King Street. This is now Your Neighbourhood Credit Union.

Marnie Wharnsby, Edward’s daughter, recalls how her father and older brother took a full year to remodel 39 George Street and turn it into 5 apartments. Before the remodeling the very top floor had been an enormous billiards room for Alfred Snyder’s family and the table was still there! That room became an apartment, with two units on the second floor and two on the main floor. It cost the Bordman’s just under $20,000 to finish the apartments. Harold and Shirley lived on the main floor on the west side, and Marnie and her parents lived directly above them. The other 3 units were rented out. 

The Bordman families lived in the house until 1957 when they sold it to the present owners. The picture below shows the house in the 1940’s. The pine trees on both the far right and far left of the house are still there.

We will continue with Marnie’s recollections of growing up on George Street in a future post.  
39 George Street ca. 1940, constructed by Gharles Moogk and built for Alfred Snyder of Snyder Brothers Co. in 1905

Present day 50 Albert Street, a mirror image of 39 George Street

Monday, February 25, 2013

What Was Here?, Part II

Today, Moore Avenue marks the edge of the Mary-Allen neighbourhood.  A century ago it was at the edge of town, and the land there, before it was developed, was put to an interesting and uncommon use...

The previous blog post, Who Were Mary and Allen?, introduced the Moores, whose name was given to Moore Avenue, and whose home stood at Union and Mary Streets in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  (Some information and images in this post come from Laura Wilford’s excellent Moore genealogy, located at the Kitchener Public Library: Moore Lineage of North Dumfries Township: Unto This Land They Came.)
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The George and Mary Moore family home stood on a large lot near the corner of Union and Mary Streets.  Today, the site is occupied by the Richelieu Apartments.  Reproduced from the publication 100 Years of Progress in Waterloo County, Canada: Semi-centennial Souvenir 1856-1906.  Image courtesy of the Waterloo Public Library, Ellis Little Room of Local History; photograph F-5-13.

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The family of George and Mary Moore, c. 1886-87.  The children are, left to right, Bella, Agnes Georgina and Robert.  Image courtesy of Laura Wilford.

Born on the Moore family farmstead in North Dumfries Township in 1845, George Douglas Moore had moved to Waterloo by the early 1870s. He married Mary Barrie in 1875, and by 1880 they had three children: Bella, Agnes Georgina, and Robert. Mary died suddenly in 1888, and George never remarried.

George Moore grew hops on part of the 150 acres he owned east of the Grand Trunk Railway tracks in the vicinity of today’s Union Street and Moore Avenue, at the edge of the Mary-Allen neighbourhood. Hop flowers, or “cones”, are a key ingredient in beer.


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Near the center of this 1881 map, the Moore lands are clearly labeled east of the town of Waterloo (to the right of the line “Waterloo Branch of G.T.R.”). Part of the Waterloo Township map from the Illustrated Atlas of the County of Waterloo by H. Parsell & Co.

By the turn of the century George Moore had about seventy acres of “hop yards”, which one contemporary source described as “the largest hop fields of the Dominion”, growing at the edge of Waterloo.  There were several breweries in town in the late 1800s, including Kuntz's Park Brewery at William and Caroline Streets (a few blocks from the hop yards at the opposite edge of the Mary-Allen neighbourhood), and these breweries provided a market for the Moore hops.   
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An idealized illustration of the Kuntz Park Brewery, on William Street between King and Caroline Streets – a short distance from George Moore’s Waterloo hop yards.  Local breweries provided a good market for Moore’s locally grown hops, and a brewery operated at the Kuntz site for almost 130 years beginning in the 1850s.  Image courtesy of the Waterloo Public Library, Ellis Little Room of Local History; photograph P43; H-7-9.


Hops were, and still are, an uncommon crop in Ontario.  However, in the late 1800s and very early 1900s George’s brother John also owned hop yards, in Preston, at the southern edge of Waterloo Township.  The large Preston hop yards covered a considerable acreage in the southwest end of town, and stretched down to the banks of the Grand and Speed Rivers, continuing on the opposite bank.  Today, the names of Preston’s Moore and Vine Streets commemorate the hop yards, and also mark their former location. 

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According to the City of Cambridge, two hop growers from New York State, Abbey and Risley, established hop yards in the southwest end of Preston in the 1860s.  John Moore, George’s brother, owned the Preston hop yards by the 1880s.  In this undated photograph of the Preston yards, First Nations farm labourers from the Brantford area are seen raising rows of poles to support the hop plants (the tall hop “vines” are grown vertically).  Hundreds of First Nations labourers came to Preston and Waterloo every year to work in the hop yards.  Image courtesy of Laura Wilford.

There were anecdotal reports as recently as the 1990s of self-seeded hops occasionally being found growing near Preston’s Bob McMullen Linear Trail that runs along the riverbank, almost a hundred years after hop cultivation in the area.

Back to Waterloo.  In the later decades of the 1800s, just a block down Union Street from the George Moore family home, stood Moore’s three hop kilns, conjoined in a T-shaped floor plan.   Today, rowhouse apartments ("Union Lane" at 43 Union Street East) occupy the former hop kiln site. 

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Part of the c. 1895 birds-eye view of the town of Waterloo (looking west) clearly shows the Moores’ three attached hop kilns on Union Street, at the end of Herbert Street, each with its four-sided pyramidal roof topped by a ventilation “cowl”.  Is that a hop yard to their right?  Image courtesy of the Waterloo Municipal Heritage Committee.

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A section from the 1908-1913 fire insurance map of Waterloo includes the Moore hop kilns (blue arrow), built in a T-shaped plan, and the Moore family home (red arrow) one block away.  Image courtesy of the Waterloo Public Library, Ellis Little Room of Local History.  

Hop kilns, called "oast houses" in Great Britain (hops were once widely grown in the county of Kent), are buildings in which hops are dried in preparation for the beer brewing process.  Click on the preceding link for an animated cut-away illustration of a traditional English hop kiln.  Hops were picked in late summer, and then spread onto racks in the upper level of a hop kiln.  A fire, which dried the hops, was made on the floor below.  

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This photograph of hop kilns, with what appear to be hop poles in the foreground and tall hop vines growing in the background, is in the collection of the Waterloo Region Museum.  "D. L. Bowman hop yards" is written on the reverse.  The location, date and provenance of the photo are not known, but since it was donated to the forerunner of the museum in the 1960s it may be a local scene.  Also, in the late 1800s, a D. L. Bowman lived in Waterloo.  He was a hotel keeper in the early 1870s, probably at the Bowman House hotel (where the Waterloo Hotel stands today) established by his father.  In 1878 he and Richard Roschman founded a button manufacturing business in Waterloo.  Was he the same D. L. Bowman associated with the hop yards, and were Bowman’s hop yards in any way associated with Moore’s?  Image courtesy of the Waterloo Region Museum; photograph 968.126.024.003.

Hops may have been planted fairly close to the Moore kilns; the 1901 Waterloo street directory indicated “hop yards” at Union and Bowman Streets.  The same year, the Waterloo Chronicle-Telegraph of August 29 briefly mentioned that “Hop picking in Geo. Moore’s hop fields will begin tomorrow.”

On his farm, in addition to growing hops, George Moore bred livestock, including award-winning work horses.  He was also active in Waterloo commerce and politics.  His other business involvements included dealing in produce and eggs, selling farm machinery, and managing several manufacturing businesses.  Moore served as a Waterloo town councillor, as reeve of the town, and as its mayor in 1884 and 1890.   During his second mayoral term he was heavily involved in creating the town’s first board of trade, and also in buying the farmland that would become the West Side Park (Waterloo Park). 

Around 1911, George Moore retired to Galt.  Just as he never remarried after the death of his wife, his daughter Bella never married, and she cared for her father until his death in 1916.

According to Preston historian Ray Ruddy, in 1906 the Moore hop fields in Preston were subdivided for house lots.

The Moore hop kilns on Union Street stood through the 1940s, and possibly longer, and were re-used by at least one other business after their hop drying days had long passed.  Readers, do any of you know when they were demolished? 

Hmmm...time for some more research...
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The distinctive T-shape of the old Moore hop kilns (circled) is plainly visible in this 1930 aerial photograph of Waterloo.  Much of the old Moore farmstead, in the upper-right-hand quarter of the image, was still undeveloped in 1930.  As it had in the 1800s, Moore Avenue still marked the far edge of town, and Elizabeth Ziegler Public School had not yet been built.

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A section from the 1942 fire insurance map of Waterloo shows the Moore hop kilns, at centre, still intact many years after they had outlived their intended use.  The old Moore house was also still standing at the time.  Image courtesy of the Waterloo Public Library, Ellis Little Room of Local History.  

Today the Richelieu Apartments stand on the former site of the George Moore family home, at Mary and Union Streets.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Who Were Mary and Allen?

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Part of a c. 1895 birds-eye view 
of the town of Waterloo, looking west.  
Image courtesy of the Waterloo 
Municipal Heritage Committee.

Who were Mary and Allen? We’re not sure, but we have a good idea who Herbert and John were.

Street names in the Mary-Allen neighbourhood seem to read like the branches of a family tree: George, Mary, Herbert, Allen, William, John, Moore… 

But for whom are these streets named?

Some of the information in this post comes from research-in-progress left by the late Waterloo historian Ellis Little, who had started a file on Waterloo street origins and land surveys.  Click on the link to read about Ellis, a thoroughly knowledgeable scholar of Waterloo history.  After his death in 2004 the Waterloo Public Library local history room was named in his honour, and it acquired his research papers for public use. 

Ellis Little’s early research on street names included few source references; more digging will be needed to verify some Mary-Allen street name origins.

However, Ellis knew that, all around our region, many streets were given the surnames of landowners who subdivided the land, or the first names of their family members. 

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Ellis Little in 1942.  
Image courtesy of the Waterloo 
Public Library, Ellis Little Room 
of Local History; photograph I-2-9.

Ellis looked at the development of the street grid of Waterloo by surveying its…well, its surveys!  Genealogies of the families who commissioned the land surveys suggest that most of Ellis’s street name attributions for the Mary-Allen neighbourhood are reasonable.  Following his lead, I have attempted to fill in one or two blanks.

A source that made it easy to check historical first names in local families was the Waterloo Region Generations website, painstakingly administered by Darryl Bonk.  It is one of the best resources for getting a quick start on researching people who lived in our region in the 1800s, and how they were related.

As always, readers, we would appreciate any insights you can provide!

John Street first appears and is named in the large 1855 survey and subdivision commissioned by John Hoffman, which included some of the future Mary-Allen neighbourhood (for the story, see the blog post Mary Allen Beginnings, Part I).  Ellis Little identified the name of John Hoffman himself as the origin of the street name. 

Considering some of the other new streets shown and named on the 1855 plan – particularly Caroline Street, on the other side of King Street from Mary-Allen – this suggestion makes sense; Caroline was the name of Hoffman’s wife.  Also, by the time John Street was created, John and Caroline Hoffman had five children, and their eldest son, born in 1836, was named John.

William Street also appears in the 1855 Hoffman Survey.  Ellis Little did not suggest an origin for the name, but the answer may be traceable to John Hoffman’s business partner and son-in-law, Isaac Weaver (originally Weber).  Weaver was Hoffman’s partner in the land subdivision and sale, as well as in other business ventures.  He was married to John and Caroline Hoffman’s eldest child, Mary Ann.  Isaac and Mary Ann’s eldest child was William, born in 1849, and he seems to be the only William in the two families that were closely associated with the 1855 survey.  

Isaac’s surname was also given to a street in the 1855 survey, and today the original course of Weaver Street is approximated by sections of Willis Way.
 
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Part of the 1855 Hoffman Survey of Waterloo, showing William, John, Mary, Union, Caroline, Weaver, King, Queen, Pine and Park Streets.  Image courtesy of the City of Waterloo Museum, 2004.14.1.


Mary Street, the only female street name in the Mary-Allen neighbourhood, is a puzzle.  There were no Marys in the families involved in the 1855 subdivision, in which Mary Street first appears, but there was a Mary Ann Hoffman, John and Caroline’s daughter (see William Street, above).  John Hoffman’s brother, Jacob, also settled in the Waterloo area, and Jacob also had a daughter named Mary Ann.  Might Mary or Mary Ann have been a long-standing family name, or perhaps John and Jacob’s mother’s name?  Although some efforts were made to answer these questions, the answers remain a mystery to this blog.

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The house at 222 Mary Street, built in 1859, was among the first houses built on the John Hoffman Survey lots in the area that would become the Mary-Allen neighbourhood.


Interestingly, at the southern edge of the 1855 Hoffman Survey, south of Pine Street, a proposed street was named Hannah Street.  One of John and Caroline Hoffman’s five children was named Hannah, and – taking John, Caroline, Weaver and William Streets into consideration – it is possible that this proposed street was named for her.  The appearance of Hannah Street on the 1855 plan may strengthen the argument that other Hoffman and Weaver family first names were used for the earliest Mary-Allen streets.  In the end, it seems Hannah Street was never built; beginning in the 1870s the land through which it had been planned was developed as Mount Hope Cemetery.

George Street, like William, is not given a name source in Ellis Little’s notes, but here is a theory: 

George Street first appears in 1875 in a survey that subdivided much of the future Mary-Allen neighbourhood.  At the time, the Christian and Bridget Kumpf family had been living in the old Erb/Hoffman house (photo below) for about five years, and they also owned the large property attached to the house (for more about Christian Kumpf, see the blog post Mary Allen Beginnings, Part II).  When Kumpf, Benjamin Devitt and Elias Snider had their large, adjacent properties subdivided in the 1875 survey, George Street was planned to run through the Kumpf estate, parallel to its northern edge.  And the name?  Christian’s father, George W. Kumpf, died in 1866, and the Kumpfs may have named George Street in his honour. 

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Erb-Kumpf House in 2012.  The rear portion was built c. 1812 by the Abraham and Magdalena Erb family, and the two wings along King Street, which re-oriented the house to the main street, were likely added by the Hoffmans in the 1850s. 


Prior to the 1875 survey, George Street existed as a laneway leading to the treed hills at the rear of the property, where local citizens sometimes gathered for picnics and relaxation.  Dating from this early period is one of the oldest houses in the neighbourhood, 28 GeorgeStreet, built as servants’ quarters for the John Hoffman estate.


Within a few decades after the 1875 survey many large houses were built along the street, making it a desirable address in the neighbourhood.

Herbert Street, like George, also first appears in the 1875 Kumpf-Devitt-Snider Survey.  According to Ellis Little, it was named for Simon and Elizabeth Snyder’s first child, Herbert M. Snyder, born in 1873.  Although no source is cited, this makes some sense: Simon Snyder was one of the very first buyers of Kumpf-Devitt-Snider lots, and he bought several at the corner of the newly planned Herbert and George Streets.  The Snyders then built one of the first houses in the new subdivision.  Click on this link to read more about the Snyders’ house, which still stands at Herbert and George Streets

The Snyders also owned land at the north end of the new Herbert Street, near William Street, which might also explain the naming.  There is likely more to the story, waiting to be uncovered, somewhere.
 

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The 1875 Kumpf-Devitt-Snider Survey, registered plan 498 in the Ontario Land Registry Office No. 58, Kitchener.  The subdivision, bounded by King, George, Willow and Union Streets, subdivided most of the old Kumpf estate and other adjacent Kumpf property.  Also included was land owned by Benjamin Devitt, near the top of the plan, and, on the right, land owned by Elias Snider (shaded in blue).  The red numbers are 1875 lots; 1855 Hoffman Survey lots are numbered in black.


Simon Snyder, a local druggist and later a furniture manufacturer, was an active citizen who served on the town council and as the Mayor of Waterloo.  He and Henry Roos acquired a local furniture manufacturing company in the 1880s, and his sons Herbert and Alfred began expanding the business around 1903.  See photo, below.

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Simon Snyder, standing at far left, in front of the 1895 Labour Day parade float prepared by his furniture manufacturing and upholstering company (visible in the background).  Henry Roos, his business partner, is beside him.  They are in front of the Devitt Block, a building set well back from King Street in Waterloo, just south of Erb Street, behind where the Molson’s Bank was built in 1914.  The man in the white apron, leaning his arm on the float, is identified as Emil Schierholtz.  Perhaps the upholsterer was working for Snyder and Roos at the time of this photograph, but in 1903 he built a furniture factory at Willow and Allen Streets (see the blog post What Was Here?).  The Devitt Block stood for more than a century, and was demolished in the 1970s.  Image courtesy of the Waterloo Public Library, Ellis Little Room of Local History; photograph C-2-13.


Allen Street, like Mary, seems to be a street name without an identified person attached – at least for now.  Ellis Little did not say to whom he thought Allen Street was dedicated.  Like Herbert and George, Allen was added to the neighbourhood street grid on the 1875 survey, running just outside and along the edge of the original Erb/Hoffman estate (owned at the time by the Kumpfs).  Like George Street, Allen has at least one house still standing today that is older than the section of street running past its front door.  Also like George, Allen was planned to run to the far edge of the 1875 Kumpf-Devitt-Snider Survey lands and connect with another new street in the survey: Willow Street.

On the 1875 survey map, above, note the large single lot midway between Herbert and Willow, on Allen.  This would become the site of St. Louis Catholic Church in 1890.  


Willow Street, according to Ellis Little, was named for a grove of willow trees at its north end, on the flats alongside Laurel Creek (nearby there are willows along the creek today, between Erb Street and Bridgeport Road).  Willow Street was laid out to connect Union Street with Erb Street as part of the 
1875 Kumpf-Devitt-Snider Survey.  On Willow, between Erb and William Streets, several grand houses were built in the second half of the nineteenth century for the Benjamin Devitt, John B. Snider and Joseph E. Seagram families. 

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This poor-quality image shows an early view towards Willow Street from King Street, c. 1870s.  The three houses lined up left to right across the center belonged to the prominent Devitt, Snider and Seagram families, and they mark Willow Street’s north end.  They stood where Waterpark Place and St. John’s Lutheran Church stand today, between William and Erb Streets.  Note the thick woods in the background.  A bit of Queen (Regina) Street can be seen crossing the image in the foreground.  Reproduced from the publication 100 Years of Progress in Waterloo County, Canada: Semi-centennial Souvenir 1856-1906.  Image courtesy of the Waterloo Public Library, Ellis Little Room of Local History; Local History Slide Collection.


Moore Avenue honours George D. Moore and family.  In 1884 and 1889 the Moores, whose home was at Union and Mary Streets, surveyed and subdivided large blocks of the vast acreage they owned northwest of Willow Street.  

In the 1884 survey, their land between Willow Street and the Grand Trunk Railway spur line tracks was subdivided, and Allen, John and Union Streets were extended to the tracks.  In the 1889 survey, which also included land owned by Barnabas Devitt, the new Moore and Devitt Avenues were laid out between Union and Erb Streets.  The 1889 survey also planned for Allen, John and Union Streets to be extended to Moore and Devitt.  However, a c.1895 bird’s-eye view of Waterloo suggests that not all new streets were immediately laid out as planned.  It appears that John Street, for example, did not even extend east of Herbert Street by the mid-1890s.

The Moores farmed hops on their Waterloo land to supply local breweries.  George Moore was also engaged in several other businesses, and was Mayor of Waterloo in 1890.  The Moores will be the subject of a future post in this blog.

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Part of the survey completed for George Moore and Benjamin Devitt in 1889, registered plan 517 in the Ontario Land Registry Office No. 58, Kitchener.  The areas labeled in red are part of the survey, and the lettered plots represent Moore's portion.  While the survey shows John Street stretching through to the new Devitt Avenue, by the mid-1890s it had not yet extended to Willow Street, and would ultimately stop at Moore Avenue.

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Part of a c. 1895 birds-eye view of the town of Waterloo, looking west, and showing the mainly open land of the Moore and Devitt properties east of the Grand Trunk Railway spur line tracks.  Moore Avenue is the road crossing from left to right in the distance.  Image courtesy of the Waterloo Municipal Heritage Committee.


Union Street first appears on the 1855 John Hoffman Survey.  Ellis Little suggested that it was named for its location near the boundary between Berlin (Kitchener) and Waterloo, having one “foot” in each.  In his notes Ellis also wondered if Hoffman, in choosing the name “Union”, was suggesting that the two communities should be joined.

Does anyone out there have more information about the people who gave their names to the Mary-Allen neighbourhood?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sprucing Up the Neighbourhood

When you stroll through our Uptown neighbourhood you will notice Norway spruce trees dotting the landscape.  Soaring in many back, side and front yards, they are all a uniform size.  These trees were planted by schoolchildren in the 1920s.

Before Elizabeth Ziegler Public School was built our neighbourhood kids went across King Street to attend Alexandra School (ingeniously re-adapted into condos in 2000).  To celebrate Arbour Day, every student was given a seedling to take home.  Years ago I met the woman who grew up in my house in the 1920s.  She and her brother, children of George H. Skelton, each planted a Norway spruce in the backyard.  Hers has survived and towers above our house at 40 George Street.

A Norway spruce behind 40 George Street.
Arbour Day was started in Nebraska in 1872 by J. Sterling Morton.  He was a journalist from the east coast who eventually became Secretary of the Nebraska Territory.  He recognized the need for trees as a source of shade, for wind breaks, for fuel, to keep soils in place, and for building materials.  He proposed an annual day where trees would be planted, and chose a time in April.  That first Arbour Day saw over one million trees planted throughout the Territory.   By the 1880s several states and some provinces had adopted Arbour Day as the last Friday in April.

Mature trees are one of the elements that attracted many of us to live in the Mary-Allen neighbourhood.  


We have school children from 90 years ago to thank for the Norway spruces, part of our tree-graced urban landscape.  If you have more information on Arbour Day, or if you were one of the people planting trees in the Uptown to celebrate it, please let us know.





A Norway spruce behind 52 Willow Street.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What Was Here?

At the corner of Willow and Allen Streets in Waterloo, across from the former St. Louis Catholic School (see the Nov. 16 blog post St. Louis Catholic School), sits an empty lot that has been mostly vacant for decades. 

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The corner in question – Allen and Willow Streets in autumn, 2012.


Since the City of Waterloo recently bought the space, along with the school building itself, the corner has gotten a lot of attention in the surrounding neighbourhood.  Its future is an open question, but its past is a bit less of a mystery – and it’s pretty interesting.

Walking through this quiet intersection, looking at the empty corner, can your imagination conjure a looming, four-storey factory built right up to the edge of the sidewalk and stretching along both streets? 

Between 1903 and 1930, that’s exactly what occupied this lot.  Prior to 1903, it was apparently empty:

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Part of a c. 1895 birds-eye view of the town of Waterloo, looking west.  Note the undeveloped corner lot at Allen and Willow Streets, where the line of four trees is.  Image courtesy of the Waterloo Municipal Heritage Committee.


A 1902 article in the Waterloo Chronicle-Telegraph described Emil Schierholtz & Company, a Waterloo upholstering business, as having “outgrown their premises” (located in the Devitt Block, now demolished, on Erb Street near King).  The same article said the company was planning to “erect a large new building of their own next year in connection with which they have asked a number of concessions from the town.”  The article also noted that Schierholtz was forming a new company to manufacture furniture frames.

The “concessions” requested by Schierholtz & Co. from the Town of Waterloo included a suitable factory site provided free-of-charge, a ten-year exemption from property taxes on the site, and an interest-free start-up loan of $5000.  In return, the company agreed to conduct business for ten years and to employ at least forty workers. 

The proposal was drafted as a bylaw and put to a public vote, and it was passed by a nearly 8-to-1 majority. 

In early 1903 Emil Schierholtz and his partners began construction on their new furniture factory at the corner of Willow and Allen Streets, in the growing residential neighbourhood.  Further research is needed to determine how and why the site was chosen.  Perhaps one of our readers knows the answer?…

As an aside, from 1902 to 1904 several other entrepreneurs, including William Greene and G. C. Raehr, received similar inducements from Waterloo to build factories in the town.  In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Berlin (Kitchener) and Waterloo courted and facilitated industrial development by offering financial incentives to manufacturers.  The resulting Greene collar-and-cuff factory operated for about ten years at William and Willow Streets, at the edge of the Mary-Allen neighbourhood, and will be the subject of a future blog post (also see maps, below).  The proposed Raehr shoe factory has a good story attached to it; click the text link to read more about it in a recent newspaper article by Jon Fear. 

Although the Schierholtz furniture factory was completed and occupied by the end of 1903, the new venture didn’t last long.  The book New Hamburg as it Really Was, by Ernest F. Ritz, recounts how a 1907 fire at the factory prompted Schierholtz & Co. to move its operations to New Hamburg.  Financial incentives offered to Schierholtz by New Hamburg also played a part in that transaction.

According to a 1972 article published by the Waterloo Historical Society, Eben (E. O.) and Ira Weber, and their father, Louis, bought the Waterloo factory from Schierholtz and his partners, and began operating it. 

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An idealized “impression” of the factory at Willow and Allen Streets, c. 1908.  The illustrator has taken some artistic license in suggesting a far busier intersection than it would have been – a common practice when depicting industrial buildings at the time, and one that conveyed a sense of prosperity.  Allen Street is shown with horse-drawn, streetcar and automobile traffic, as well as pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk.  Reproduced from the publication The Twin-City Berlin & Waterloo and Their Industries, Commercial, Financial, Manufacturing; published 1908 by authority of the Board of Trade.  Image courtesy of the University of Waterloo Library.


The Webers’ Waterloo Furniture Company factory is described in the 1908 publication The Twin-City Berlin & Waterloo and Their Industries, Commercial, Financial, Manufacturing, as well lighted and made of brick, with “a frontage on each street of about 100 feet.” 

The description goes on:

“The plant is thoroughly equipped with the most modern machinery and appliances for the production of their well-known line of upholstered furniture.  All goods sold by them are manufactured entirely on these premises by skilled mechanics.” 

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A section from the 1908-1913 fire insurance map of Waterloo, showing the Waterloo Furniture Company factory and surrounding neighbourhood.  The factory appears to have been served by a rail link with the spur line that passes through the Mary-Allen neighbourhood to this day.  The track to the factory would have cut through the land comprising today’s Mary-Allen Park.  A tall smokestack rose from the square section in the rear (detail below).  Note, at William and Willow Streets, another factory building.  This little industrial building, the W. A. Greene shirt-collar and -cuff factory, was built around the same time as the furniture factory, but was vacant when this map was updated in 1913.  Greene lived for a while at 59 George Street, and was also involved in the large Williams, Greene & Rome Company of Berlin (Kitchener), a manufacturer of shirts, collars and cuffs.  Image courtesy of the Waterloo Public Library, Ellis Little Room of Local History.
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A close-up of the map above, showing the Waterloo Furniture Company factory and its outbuildings.  Image courtesy of the Waterloo Public Library, Ellis Little Room of Local History.  


E. O. Weber also went on to own other furniture factories, in Preston and Kitchener, and was heavily involved in the development of the Westmount neighbourhood of Kitchener-Waterloo, as well as the Westmount Golf and Country Club.

The business at Willow and Allen Streets that came to be called the E. O. Weber Furniture Company prospered for a while, but fire continued to plague the factory. 

After twenty years under Weber ownership, at the end of a late workday on a Friday evening in November 1928, a finishing room explosion started a fire that killed one employee, John Mitchell.   In a strange turn of events, one local newspaper reported that the ambulance driver who transported John Mitchell to the hospital was Mitchell’s own son. 

In addition to the loss of life, the destruction of stock prepared for the Christmas sale season caused the company considerable hardship.  At the time, the financial loss was estimated at $25,000. 

Only two years later, another Friday fire on October 24, 1930, completely destroyed the twenty-seven-year-old building.  The next day, the front-page headline in The Daily Record began: “Worst Fire In History Of Waterloo.”  

The fire started in the basement, and spread quickly by way of an elevator shaft.  No one was injured, though the factory was reportedly evacuated with no time to spare before the interior began to collapse. 

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Part of the front page of The Daily Record, October 25, 1930, with its lead story about the fire at the E. O. Weber Furniture Company factory.  Printout from the Waterloo Public Library, Main Reference Microfilm collection.


As described in the Record article, “flames shot 100 feet in the air as a crowd of 8,000 people gathered to witness the spectacle.”  And as happened two years earlier, the fire struck, in the words of the newspaper, “just when the Waterloo plant was loaded with goods for Christmas shipment.  Had the fire occurred a month later, at least $50,000 worth of stock would have been moved.”

At least forty employees were suddenly out of work.  E. O. Weber estimated the total financial loss at $200,000, and his personal loss at $40,000. 

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The E. O. Weber Furniture Company factory at Willow and Allen Streets in October 1930, after it was destroyed by fire.  The cars are stopped on Allen Street; the right-hand photograph is a view looking down Willow Street.  Images courtesy of the University of Waterloo Library; E. O. Weber Papers.

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The E. O. Weber Furniture Company factory at Willow and Allen Streets in October 1930, after it was destroyed by fire.  Image courtesy of the University of Waterloo Library; E. O. Weber Papers.

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The E. O. Weber Furniture Company factory at Willow and Allen Streets in October 1930, after it was destroyed by fire.  This is a view of the Allen Street wing of the plant.  Image courtesy of the University of Waterloo Library; E. O. Weber Papers.

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The E. O. Weber Furniture Company factory at Willow and Allen Streets in October 1930, after it was destroyed by fire.  As above, a view from Allen Street, showing the smokestack.  Image courtesy of the University of Waterloo Library; E. O. Weber Papers.


Two fires within two years, with the second fire occurring during the Great Depression, proved too big an obstacle for Weber to overcome.  

While speculation about the E. O. Weber Furniture Company’s future swirled in the months that followed, Weber ruled out Waterloo as a potential site to rebuild, saying Kitchener might be a possibility.  But in January 1931, when he announced the sale of his remaining furniture plant, in Preston, it spelled the end of his career as a furniture manufacturer.

The lot at Willow and Allen Streets was cleared.  Empty once again, on the 1942 fire insurance map it was marked “School Ground”, presumably for the use of St. Louis Catholic School across the street.

Research of the lot beyond its years as a factory site was not done for this article.

But one local resident recalls that is was a baseball diamond in the 1970s…

Do you have stories about this space?  Can you fill in more of the story from the 1940s on?  Please submit your comments!

Many thanks to Susan Mavor at the University of Waterloo Library, and to Karen VandenBrink at the City of Waterloo Museum, for their generous assistance in providing information about E. O. Weber for this article.